Thursday, August 02, 2007
Its been almost 18 hours since the freeway over the Mississippi river collapsed. I had just gotten off work at 6 pm and was making my way towards downtown Minneapolis when it happened. I was on 35W southbound and traffic was bumper to bumper when I decided to get off the East Hennepin Exit. No sooner had my car turned the corner when the first ambulance rushed by me sirens full blast. I found my way to University Ave hoping to cross over the 10th street bridge in a couple hops. Another ambulance rushed by me again this time I noticed it was a suburban ambulance. Traffic was bumper to bumper on University and I was getting antsy. I could almost see the BP sign over the cars but I knew it would be a wait. A firetruck barreled through the traffic wailing away as light flashed. Something was up. People seemed to be running towards the bridge next to the University Exit of 35W. The air was still except for the steady droning of helicopters. What are choppers doing out here? I tried to peer out my window as I snailed along the road. My heart lurched as I looked over the familiar hump that used to be 35W to the right of my car. There was nothing there. People were on their phones and all heading towards the site. I switched my radio to NPR and soon enough the broadcaster announced the collapse of the bridge. I could have been on that bridge if I hadn't gotten off at the exit before it. Reaching for my phone to call anyone, I noticed that none of my calls were going through. The airspace was clogged as another couple ambulances zoomed by me. The news pouring out of the radio was slow as preliminarily no one knew what happened. Pretty soon though the news was everywhere and there was talk of fatalities and about 50 cars being on the bridge at the time of collapse. That stretch of the freeway was under construction for the past month. What did they do to cause the collapse? Was it a terrorism act? Homeland security ruled that it wasn't a terrorist act. I got to my destination and sat in my car for a minute. I tried my cell again just as my sister's call came through. She frantically asked me if I was ok cause she said she saw my car in the river. I told her I was fine, I got off before the bridge. The rest of the evening I got calls from people who knew me and relatives wanting to make sure I was fine. I have to say I was impressed by the efficient way that the disaster was tackled by Minneapolis. Within an hour the police had to turn volunteers away. There were getting support from all corners of the metro from Roseville to St Paul. My sister works at HCMC Emergency Department and I knew it was going to be a rough night for her. 28-29 people were brought to HCMC, 30 to Fairview (closer to the site of the tragedy) and 9 to North Memorial. Most of the injuries seem to be fractures, head injuries, concurrent with a 40-60 ft drop. I am so proud of this city at the moment though I can't say I have much belief in their bridge system. Apparently there is talk that the bridge was deemed unsafe two years ago. I know lots of Somalis in the diaspora know one person or more who live in the Twin Cities, give them a call and make sure they are fine. There are two Somali males in HCMC at the moment who were on the bridge and there are still recovering bodies at site and will probably be doing so for a couple days. Pray for the souls of those who passed. Amin.